Year: 2007

The Truth About Saint Nicholas

Kathryn HickokQuickPoint!

Do you believe in Santa Claus? By the time many people think they are too old to believe in Santa Claus, they have unwittingly come to believe in another one—a figurative Santa Claus that goes by the name of “welfare state,” or “big government.” But Santa would be insulted by the comparison.

The real Santa Claus is (more…)

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A Market-Based Solution to the MAX Security Crisis

Sreya SarkarJohn A. Charles, Jr.Cascade Commentary

Summary

While TriMet has agreed to some reforms in the wake of the MAX security crisis, a much better solution would be to allow consumers to have real choices in transit service. Here in Portland, privately operated automobiles formerly served successfully as unsubsidized, flexible, quasi-public transportation directly responsive to popular demand. (more…)

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Opportunity Inequality

Bina PatelCascade Commentary

Summary

“Income inequality” is a central part of the debate surrounding poverty and economic growth. However, a better alternative to the term “income inequality” is “opportunity inequality.” Poverty is not about what or how much you consume but about limited opportunity and freedom. (more…)

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The Public Knows Something Is Wrong with Education … and It’s Not Lack of Money

Matt WingardCascade Commentary

Summary

The polling data is trending toward school choice. As more and more parents experience choice through charter schools, vouchers, tax credits and the like, the idea of educational freedom becomes less scary, more real and urgently rational. (more…)

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We Told You So

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

The 2007 Oregon legislature capped interest rates on payday loans, effectively putting the lenders out of business. What happens now to people who relied on those so-called predatory loans?

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York just released a study about two other states that (more…)

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A New Day for Portland Transportation: Spending Should Match Utilization

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

Observers of Portland transportation have long criticized local politicians for spending billions of dollars on rail transit projects even though rail carries just a small fraction of all trips in the region.

Now the critics have a powerful new ally: Portland city commissioner and mayoral candidate Sam Adams. Commissioner Adams announced last week that he wants to (more…)

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Spending to Stop Climate Change Flunks the Common Sense Test

Anthony StintonCascade Commentary

Summary

Al Gore’s recent Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change has intensified calls for drastic measures to slow “global warming.” However, the global climate is an incredibly complex system known to change throughout history. We need to ask some common-sense questions about the science of climate change and what are truly the best ways to deal with it. (more…)

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Triple Failure: New Report Examines the Effects of Portland’s 18-Year-Old Polystyrene Foam Ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: John A. Charles, Jr.
Tel.: 503-242-0900
Fax: 503-242-3822
E-mail: john@cascadepolicy.org

This week Cascade Policy Institute released a report analyzing Portland’s eighteen-year-old polystyrene foam ban. Sustainable Failure: Why Portland’s Polystyrene Foam Ban Should Be Repealed details why the ban clearly fails the “triple bottom-line” test (more…)

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Sustainable Failure: Why Portland's Polystyrene Foam Ban Should Be Repealed

Introduction

In the summer of 1988, Portland City Commissioner Bob Koch introduced an ordinance to ban the use of polystyrene foam (PSF) for prepared food in restaurants, grocery stores and other retail establishments. He hoped that this would address perceived environmental issues with PSF, commonly known by the trade name Styrofoam. However, the proposal was quickly withdrawn when Commissioner Koch discovered that the alleged problems with PSF did not actually exist and that the measure had the potential to increase rather than decrease environmental impacts. (more…)

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“Assets” Are More Than Just “Stuff”

Bina PatelQuickPoint!

Poverty, economic development and fairness are words often used when speaking about income inequality. “Income inequality” refers to the gap in consumption between the rich and the poor but fails to illustrate anything about well-being and long-term self-sufficiency.

The term “income inequality” is not particularly helpful. It focuses more on (more…)

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The Dilemma of a Bifurcated Social Policy

Sreya SarkarCascade Commentary

Summary

The root of the contemporary American dilemma about how much to spend on welfare programs lies in the fact that, in this country, “social security” and “welfare” are manifestations of a fragmented and bifurcated social policy framework. Americans always have been ambivalent about nationalized social provisions, just as they are toward concentrated political authority. (more…)

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Get a raise? Pay more for your latte

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Oregon taxpayers soon will receive checks in the mail representing 18.6 percent of their 2006 personal income tax payments. This kicker refund results from the Oregon law that says if state economists underestimate revenue by two percent or more, the excess must be returned to taxpayers.

Some argue that the kicker money should stay with the state. Why? (more…)

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Kicker Envy

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

Individual Oregon income taxpayers are set to receive a record $1.1 billion in so-called kicker refunds just before Christmas. Whether the kicker law is good or bad public policy, it is an important brake on runaway government spending. Perhaps more importantly, the money belongs to those who earned it, not those who “need” it. (more…)

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Advocate for Ownership

Bina PatelQuickPoint!

Presidential hopefuls, policy wonks and advocates from the Left have given the idea of ownership a bad rap. These are many of the same folks working on poverty alleviation. Unfortunately, they are missing a crucial element to helping the poor: Property rights and possession of assets are instrumental to poverty alleviation. Contrary to claims by critics that focusing on ownership breaks down communities and fosters an “everyone-for-himself” attitude, research shows asset ownership results in greater community and civic participation by the poor. (more…)

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Broadband Blunders in the Beaver State

Cascade Commentary

Summary

The development of municipal wireless broadband networks has been popular with local government officials across the country, including the city of Portland. However, a closer look at a southern Oregon city reveals “Muni Wi-Fi” could be the latest losing gamble for taxpayers. (more…)

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Paying a High Price for "Fareless" Rides

Sreya SarkarQuickPoint!

TriMet has always taken credit for promoting economic development along light rail lines, yet it has been reluctant to take responsibility for the growing levels of unlawful behavior on MAX.

Repeated complaints of crimes on MAX from Gresham to Hillsboro fell on deaf ears until the recent incident of a 71-year-old man being beaten with a baseball bat at the Gresham Central Transit Center. This incident triggered a (more…)

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Cable TV Competition

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Remember when the only telephone service you could get was from AT&T? From 1913 to 1984 the company had a government-sanctioned monopoly. The company argued that telephone service, by the nature of its technology, would operate most efficiently as a monopoly providing universal service.

Of course, we now know how expensive that lack of market competition turned out to be. After deregulation, phone services exploded while rates plunged. (more…)

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Asset Ownership Is Life-Changing

Bina PatelCascade Commentary

Summary

An expansive amount of research from across the political spectrum demonstrates the importance of owing assets, particularly for minorities, women and low-income populations. Owning assets fosters better citizens. (more…)

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Running with Robbers

Matt WingardQuickPoint!

One of the most perplexing things about the current fight over Oregon land use laws is how many wealthy Oregonians publicly support restricting development rights.

Many of them are landowners. So it would seem they are advocating against their own interests and the basic concepts of the free market and private property that sustain their wealth. (more…)

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Oregon Property Rights: “Vintage”

Matt WingardCascade Commentary

Summary

Property is more than land. Eroding Oregonians’ property rights jeopardizes all the other rights we cherish. (more…)

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School Choice Equals Confidence and Success

Kathryn HickokQuickPoint!

In 1999 local Oregon donors pledged one million dollars to begin the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland. This program, unique in Oregon, enables children from low- income families to attend the K-12 schools their parents think are best for them. Local donations are matched by the national Children’s Scholarship Fund, which has helped over 86,000 children nationwide get a hand-up in life through education.

For nine school years CSF-Portland has proven that (more…)

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Hidden in Plain Sight: Portland’s Disappearing Street Maintenance Fund

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams and Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler have proposed a 3-cent-per-gallon tax increase and a monthly fee for homeowners and businesses in order to generate roughly $485 million over 10 years that would be used for local street maintenance, safety programs, and Willamette River bridge repairs. However, before this concept is approved, the two politicians have some explaining to do about current priorities.

According to a city auditor’s report published in December 2006, the total amount of money (more…)

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End Oregon’s Capital Gains Tax

Cascade Commentary

Summary

The more something is taxed, less of it is produced. The capital gains tax punishes the very thing that encourages growth in the economy. Consequently, less wealth is created to invest in worthy enterprises that benefit workers, business owners and investors alike. (more…)

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Collect signatures, go to prison

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Last week the state of Oklahoma indicted national political activist Paul Jacob for the “crime” of conspiring to help people collect petition signatures while they may not have been legal residents of the state.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in similar cases that government cannot “reduce the available pool” of people who assist citizens in communicating with their (more…)

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“The Most Important Guarantee of Freedom”

Cascade Commentary

Summary

Milton Friedman wrote:
“Nobody uses somebody else’s resources as carefully as he uses his own. So if you want efficiency and effectiveness,…you have to do it through…private property.” For nearly four decades, Oregon voters, legislators and courts have defined what powers property owners have with respect to private land. This November, Oregonians once again will vote on property rights by means of Measure 49.
(more…)

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Are Government Schools Safer Than Private Ones?

Kathryn HickokQuickPoint!

Last summer the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation released a study entitled “Disruptive Behavior: An Empirical Evaluation of School Misconduct and Market Accountability.” Researchers examined the cases of employee misconduct in both public and private schools in the 12 states that have school choice policies.

Some opponents of school choice argue that private schools are not as “accountable” as public schools because they are not subject to all the same regulations as public schools.

This is not true. (more…)

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Pouring Good Money after Bad

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

For eighteen years we’ve heard that The Oregon Convention Center needs a headquarters hotel nearby to make it successful. The $90 million original facility never covered its costs. Voters turned down a property tax increase to fund an expansion, so the powers-that-be issued $116 million of municipal bonds to enlarge the building. Occupancy rates dropped and deficits continued. Now, the cost of a publicly funded headquarters hotel may exceed $244 million.

Last week the Metro government heard from supporters and opponents of the (more…)

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Flexible Transit? Lessons from Bend

Sreya SarkarCascade Commentary

Summary

A committee representing the three Central Oregon Counties has created a regional framework to address a more efficient, effective and equitable use of alternative transportation services. They conducted the region’s first comprehensive survey of alternative transportation services and discovered overwhelming support for transit services based on real market demand. (more…)

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Testimony before the Metro Council on Resolution No. 07-3868 authorizing creation of a finance plan for the development of a Convention Center Headquarters Hotel

Steve BucksteinPresident Bragdon and members of the council, for the record my name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute in Portland. I’m here to oppose this resolution.

Originally, we built the Oregon Convention Center thinking it would encourage everyone to come to Portland and spend lots of money eating and shopping when they weren’t attending conventions.

But the same idea occurred to people in other cities, and it sparked an ambitious municipal competition that is still going strong.

When our original $90 million center didn’t generate the expected revenue, we spent another (more…)

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The “Perfect Logic” of Taxing Smokers

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

Measure 50 on the November ballot would lock a tobacco tax into the state Constitution to provide health insurance to low-income children. But once the Healthy Kids Plan is in place, it may make no difference whether enough tobacco tax money exists to fund the program or not. Any shortfalls will lead to cries for other funding sources for a program that by then will be embedded in Oregon’s bureaucratic infrastructure. (more…)

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New Pilot Study Initiative Aims to Increase the Mobility of Low-Income Workers in Portland through Auto Ownership

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Sreya Sarkar
Tel.: 503-242-0900
Fax: 503-242-3822
E-mail: Sreya Sarkar

Cascade Policy Institute has released a report unveiling a pilot project to examine the feasibility of promoting low-income auto ownership as a transit strategy. (more…)

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Why Things Seem to Go on in One Direction

Matt WingardQuickPoint!

Democracy is not an excuse for tyranny. It must be more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

As a voter, consider whether it’s ethical to take property away from other people simply because you can out-vote them.

There are only two kinds of politicians: those who promise to use the power of government to give you something, and those who (more…)

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Wheels to Wealth: A Pilot Project to Examine the Feasibility of Promoting Low-Income Auto Ownership as a Transit Strategy

Synopsis

Wheels to Wealth is a proposal with a dual purpose: First, to form a committee to discuss the transportation needs of the “working poor” population in the Portland tri-county area. Second, to explore the feasibility of canceling TriMet’s lowest performing bus routes, and using a part of the financial savings to create a revolving loan fund to help finance car ownership among low-income workers in the tri-county area. If implemented (through a 3rd-party social service agency), this proposal would improve the mobility options of low-income households and workers who are not served totally by fixed bus routes. The auto loan program also would increase employment opportunities for its participants, thereby helping to raise their incomes. It is likely to increase TriMet’s total ridership, improve the fuel economy of the bus fleet, and raise TriMet’s fare box recovery ratio.

Background

The growing “working poor” population in Portland has complex transportation needs that are not addressed sufficiently by the fixed route model of public transit.

TriMet recovers approximately 21% of its operating costs from passenger fares. This low fare box recovery ratio places constant pressure on the agency to cancel the lowest-performing routes, where subsidies can be $12 or more per trip (such as the Cedar Mill Shuttle, 84-Kelso-Boring, 39-Lewis & Clark and 27-Market routes), compared with the fleet average subsidy of $2.58 per trip.

Adopting a subsidized car ownership strategy could be a cost-effective and efficient way of replacing these underperforming routes while mobilizing low-income workers in Portland. If implemented properly, such a program could have many benefits for the general public, TriMet and its customers.

Benefits for customers

  • Studies show that for low-income and minority households, auto ownership is positively correlated with improved access to jobs, higher household incomes and more weeks worked per year. Thus, improving the car ownership rate among these populations is likely to make them more financially secure.
  • Auto ownership helps welfare recipients move permanently into the workforce.
  • Auto ownership dramatically improves the mobility options of the “working poor” and increases their access to regional public transportation.

Benefits for TriMet

  • Subsidized car ownership can help improve TriMet’s bottom line by allowing the agency to eliminate its lowest-performing (highest-subsidized) bus routes, thereby freeing up capital to be redeployed in areas where consumer demand is greater.
  • TriMet is dependent on private car ownership for the so-called “last mile” of service from the transit stop to the customer’s front door. If TriMet helps some of its lowest-income bus riders become car owners, many of them may continue to be transit riders by driving to TriMet parking lots and using the train to commute to jobs that were previously unavailable to them.

Benefits for the General Public

  • Most of the money saved by TriMet from canceling low-performing routes can be reinvested in parts of the district where customer demand is greater. This will provide better service for more people.
  • Energy consumption for the average automobile trip in America is now less than for the average transit bus trip (3,549 BTU per passenger-mile by car, versus 4,160 for a bus transit trip). Canceling low-performing routes that consume a lot of energy will improve the overall transportation fuel economy for the region, lowering emissions and saving money.

Concerns about Traffic Congestion

  • Many low-income transit passengers work at jobs that either have odd shifts (e.g., starting at midnight) or involve “reverse commutes” where road capacity is not a problem. Converting a few hundred of these weekly trips from bus to auto will have no effect on congestion in the region.

Conclusion

While it may seem counterintuitive to think of subsidized car ownership as a “transit strategy,” it is clear that testing this concept would have benefits for TriMet, its transit-dependent riders and the general public. Cascade urges TriMet to partner with Metro, the DEQ and other stakeholders to explore the feasibility of testing the idea on several of its lowest-performing bus routes over a three-year period.

—> View full PDF document

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Pilot study initiative to explore the transportation needs of the low-income population in the Portland tri-county area

Sreya SarkarInitiative Proposal

To initiate a pilot study for three years, to explore the possibility of including car-ownership as part of the transportation choices offered to the low-income and minority population in the tricounty area. (more…)

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How to Increase Low-Income Homeownership Without Subsidies

Sreya SarkarQuickPoint!

A recent study published by the Urban Institute discusses how the current system of low-income housing assistance is strongly biased against homeownership for low-income households.

An interesting section of the study explains why programs that subsidize the (more…)

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Response to TriMet comments on Cascade’s pilot project proposal

To: TPAC

We appreciated the time allocated by TPAC recently to consider our proposal. We would like to respond to the specific points made by Phil Selinger in his August 31, 2007 memo. (more…)

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How happy are we?

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Economists measure all kinds of things, such as income, assets, inflation and unemployment. Hard data gives us an objective view of our economic world.

Now, some social scientists are trying to go beyond hard data to measure more subjective factors, such as what makes us happy.

Americans might be particularly interested in this research, since (more…)

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Oregon Wears the Union Label

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

Private sector unionism has declined to the point of irrelevance in America, while public sector unionism grows ever stronger. In Oregon, over 50 percent of public employees are unionized, much higher than the national average. Without competitive market restraint, this trend bodes ill for Oregon taxpayers. (more…)

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Who Owns Your Social Security? (hint: it’s not you)

Bina PatelCascade Commentary

Summary

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that retirees do not have an ownership claim to future unpaid Social Security benefits. Because you do not have a property right to your mandatory contributions, you may never be able to benefit from them. In over 30 countries, however, personal accounts are increasing long-term security and ensuring retirement benefits. (more…)

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Carbon Grandstanding

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

Last week Gov. Kulongoski and the governors of five other western states signed a regional agreement that commits their respective states to reducing greenhouse gases by an aggregate of 15% below 2005 levels by 2020. Although this sounds aggressive, it’s actually a goal that rides the momentum of an ongoing trend.

In Oregon, total carbon dioxide emissions peaked in 1999 and were 6% lower by 2003. Emissions will continue to decline for the (more…)

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NO SCHIP

Anthony StintonCascade Commentary

Summary

Congress wants to expand SCHIP to provide more uninsured children with health coverage. While exactly how much private insurance the expansion of public coverage will crowd out is uncertain, the Congressional Budget Office projects that if SCHIP is expanded, 25-50% of new participants would be children who already had private insurance. Instead, Congress and state governments should act to make insurance more affordable. (more…)

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Central Oregon private-public mobility agenda

Sreya SarkarQuickPoint!

Central Oregon Mobility Consortium, under the Central Oregon Intergovermental Council, is on the verge of creating an innovative regional transportation plan for Central Oregon counties. The region’s continuing phenomenal growth has created an unprecedented demand for alternative transportation choices that are customer friendly but not totally reliant on the existing public transit model of fixed routes.

The traditional bus service doesn’t effectively serve the smaller communities in the region because of their (more…)

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Portlanders See Through the “Bike vs. Car” Racket

Debate Club poster

Debate club poster
(Photo: Garrett Downen/Bus Project)

The Wheels to Wealth program is finally communicating with an audience it always wanted to reach out to. Program Director Sreya Sarkar took part in a debate in SE Portland that attracted the biking community of Portland.

As part of their monthly Debate Club series, the Bus Project and the Portland Mercury hosted a (more…)

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Better Health Care Through Less Government

Daniel RoncariCascade Commentary

Summary

Many of the problems present in Oregon’s health care system associated with access and affordability would be alleviated by increasing the number of medical procedures that do not require a fully licensed physician and by allowing doctors licensed in another state to practice in Oregon. (more…)

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Unions undermine democracy

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Oregon’s strong public employee unions may grow even stronger now that Governor Kulongoski has signed House Bill 2891 into law. Known as card-check, it allows unions to organize government agencies simply by convincing half of the eligible workers to sign a card stating they want to join the union. If half sign, all must join or pay dues. No secret vote, not even a way to vote no. Talk about pressure and the abandonment of democratic principles.

At the federal level a similar attempt to impose (more…)

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Tolls (not tax, spend and waste) to Fund Bridges

Anthony StintonQuickPoint!

The collapse of the I-35 Bridge and loss of life in Minneapolis is a tragedy that prompts Oregonians to ask, could such a tragedy happen here, and how can we reduce our risk?

The first widespread reaction is to demand that our state and federal legislators appropriate more money for bridges and roads. Oregonians should think twice. Federal, state and local transportation appropriation processes regularly produce pork barrel spending (read about pork in the 2005 Federal Highway bill) and wasteful projects like the (more…)

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Consumer Protection from What?

Anthony StintonCascade Commentary

Summary

The payday lending interest rate cap passed by the Oregon legislature has reduced gross revenues on a typical loan by 70%, causing the closure of 102 stores. As a result, the Oregonians these regulations were meant to protect have less access to credit than they did before. (more…)

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The Private Sector Has More Incentive to Invest Wisely

Daniel RoncariQuickPoint!

Governor Kulongoski recently signed a series of bills that will spend a total of $28 million dollars on several industries and research centers. The Oregon Innovation Plan will “invest” in “innovation-based economic development,” supposedly to help make Oregon more competitive. Because the Oregon Innovation Plan is government-directed investment, it is inferior to private sector investment. That is because government decision makers, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, do not have as strong incentives to invest wisely.

Milton Friedman once said: “Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as (more…)

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When Renewable Energy Isn’t

Jeffrey CarlsonCascade Commentary

Summary

By defining the state’s most abundant energy resource, running water, as “non-renewable,” Oregon’s new renewable energy portfolio standard proves to be arbitrary and punitive. Furthermore, the law excludes many renewable energy power plants in Oregon from counting towards the renewable energy goal for no environmentally significant reason. (more…)

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Another Path to Insuring More Oregonians

Anthony StintonCascade Commentary

Summary

While consumer choice is a proven cost-cutter, health insurance mandates raise premiums, resulting in fewer people covered. Oregon should try a pilot project allowing health insurers to offer mandate-free policies, allowing consumers to choose basic, or more elaborate, health insurance coverage suited to their needs and budgets. (more…)

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Testimony before the Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission on Qwest’s Cable Franchise Proposal

Steve BucksteinMembers of the Commission, my name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a non-profit think tank based in Portland. Our mission is to advance policies that foster individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.

In the late 1980s I remember one Multnomah County Commissioner campaigning on a platform of bringing multiple cable TV providers to the county. Hopefully, tonight is the night that promise will come true. The mere choice of providers is, I believe, the most powerful public benefit that will be generated with the acceptance of Qwest’s franchise request.

We can speculate about why there hasn’t been any real (more…)

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Portland’s Transportation Future: Back to the Past?

Jeffrey CarlsonQuickPoint!

In the optimistic decades of the 1950s and 60s, Americans had bold visions for the future. In the area of personal transportation, flying cars, spaceships, and even Star Trek transporters seemed just around the corner. Today those ideas might seem fanciful, but they were forward-thinking concepts.

Contrast these forward-thinking concepts to Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams’ vision presented to the City Club last Friday. Adams asked, “What would Portland look like if (more…)

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YOUR PRIVACY IS PROTECTED AT CASCADE!

Recently, Willamette Week printed a story regarding non-profit organizations utilizing the Cooler Email system to violate the privacy rights of their email audiences. Cascade Policy Institute was one of the organizations mentioned in this article. On Sunday, July 15, the subject arose again on the Kremer and Abrams talk show on KXL radio. To clarify, here at Cascade Policy Institute, we use the Cooler system to promote our Speaker’s Bureau and to send weekly policy briefs and event invitations to our constituents. We do not track who forwards our info to whom, nor do we read personal comments written by our readers. Cooler merely provides a convenient means for us to send mass emails to a large audience. We cannot speak for other organizations who use Cooler, but, at Cascade, we use this service with integrity and we respect the privacy of our readers. Thank you.

To read the Willamette Week article, please log on here. For further information, please do not hesitate to contact Tina Pisenti at Cascade Policy Institute, at 503-242-0900.

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What the Legislature Hath Wrought

Matt WingardCascade Commentary

Summary

The 2007 Oregon Legislative Session ended June 28. With very few exceptions, nothing the legislature did made Oregonians more free. Most of the legislation advanced government intervention into our lives, our economy and our interactions with each other. (more…)

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New Mandates, New Costs

Anthony StintonQuickPoint!

What do acupuncturists, drug abuse treatment, and non-custodial children have in common? Oregonians cannot buy private health insurance that does not pay for or cover all three. They represent three of the state’s 33 health insurance mandates. Mandates are benefits, providers, and persons that must be included in all private health insurance policies. The list of mandates is expanding: The legislature added contraceptives, prosthetics and orthotics, and treatment for intoxicant-related injuries in the recently-concluded 2007 session (House Bills 2700, 2517, and 2348 respectively).

Requiring insurers to cover more conditions seems like (more…)

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Emergency Price Controls: The Wrong Policy

Daniel RoncariQuickPoint!

Oregon has recently passed a new law (Senate Bill 118) in an attempt to prohibit so-called “price-gouging” after an emergency or natural disaster. Although the purpose of the bill is to protect Oregonians from being charged excessive prices after an emergency, the new law likely will make a bad situation worse.

The market has a built-in mechanism to ensure that goods are directed to where they are most needed. When a natural disaster or emergency occurs, demand for essential goods immediately (more…)

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Economic Fairness for Whom?

Inessa M. Hamilton-LeeQuickPoint!

This week, four new laws went into effect making it illegal for Oregon payday lenders and the like to charge more than approximately 36 percent annualized interest. The bills boast tighter regulations, limits on fees, and other anti-market sentiments that ultimately hurt us, the consumers. This slate of legislation was touted as consumer protection against predatory lenders, insultingly implying not only that consumers are prey, but that it is predatory for lenders to do what bests supports their families.

Our Oregon,” a self-proclaimed progressive non-profit organization for economic fairness, organized the (more…)

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Social Security Reform: The Thrift Savings Way

Cascade Commentary

Summary

In just 10 years’ time, the Social Security system will begin to pay more each year in benefits than it receives in tax revenues. Giving every worker in America the same opportunity that federal workers have to save for retirement would allow everyone to create and fund their own protected retirement accounts that can never be taken away by Congress. (more…)

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Bandon Dunes Is a Private (Not Government) Success Story

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

The implication that private business success stories are really dependent on government subsidies needs to be looked at critically. Contrary to the impression made by a recent New York Times article, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the southern Oregon coast was developed and became successful due to private risk taking and entrepreneurial skill. (more…)

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Oregon schools get more money, but most isn’t for students

Jeffrey CarlsonQuickPoint!

The Oregon Legislature recently passed a 6.2 billion dollar budget for K-12 education for the 2007-2009 biennium, a 14 percent increase over the last two years and the largest in Oregon history. This funding will enable some districts to expand music and physical education programs, and decrease class sizes. However, over half of the additional funds will be used to pay for rapidly rising health-care costs and teachers’ salaries. These funds come without any state mandate for school districts to prove they are using their money efficiently.

Parents’ calls for school spending accountability seem to have fallen on (more…)

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Supreme Court slaps public employee unions

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously last week that public employee unions can’t violate state laws that prohibit them from using non-members’ dues on political campaigns without prior permission. The ruling came in two cases from Washington State where, as in Oregon, the teachers union has been coercing non-members to pay not only for collective bargaining, but also for its political activities.

If you think coercion is too strong a word, that’s what Justice Scalia called it in (more…)

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Testimony before the Portland City Council on The Great Duct Tape Controversy

Steve BucksteinThis testimony was in response to a proposed ordinance by Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard which would ban reserving sidewalk space to view parades. Before my testimony, Mayor Potter suggested that Leonard withdraw his proposal and agree to solicit citizen input through a public committee. As the first person to testify, I supported the Mayor’s suggestion. After my testimony and that of others, Leonard withdrew his ordinance and agreed to co-chair such a committee with the head of the Rose Festival Association. Commissioner Dan Saltzman told his colleagues that he hoped “Steve Buckstein’s Rose Festival Duct Tape idea” would be considered. The idea was presented in my testimony below. (more…)

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The Great Duct Tape Controversy

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

The 100th Portland Rose Festival has come and gone, but the great duct tape controversy lives on. The city is divided among those who think it’s legitimate to duct tape off your parade viewing spot days in advance, and those who think it should be first come, first served.

If sidewalks were owned by the adjacent home or business owners, this would not be an issue. But sidewalks are public property. They’re usually conflict free, but (more…)

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Opposing the Salem Zealots

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

The Oregonian’s front page feature on lobbyist Mark Nelson is a revealing insight into the views of a man the paper calls “the most powerful man in government whom you’ve never met.”

Nelson works for a number of powerful clients. Among other battles this legislative session, he’s trying to keep cigarette and beer taxes from rising, and he’s fighting caps on consumer loans.

His opponents couch their arguments in terms of (more…)

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Cancel the Apocalypse: School Funding is Up (Again)

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

The conventional wisdom in Oregon is that we’ve been “disinvesting” in public schools during the past decade. Portland Public Schools were lampooned in Doonsbury a few years back, and the number of portable classrooms in suburban districts is supposedly proof that we face an educational funding crisis.

There’s just one thing wrong with this image: it’s completely wrong. Tax spending for schools has been going up for years. But many journalists are so used to repeating the dominant story line that they can’t (more…)

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“Workfare” Calls for Mobility of Low-Income Workers

Sreya SarkarCascade Commentary

Summary

Low-income workers need access to higher-skilled jobs to increase their income and independence. Addressing their real-life transportation needs will help post-TANF individuals transition into the mainstream workforce with stability and permanence. (more…)

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Be wary of funding “Mess Transit”

Steve BucksteinTestimony before the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development on HB 2278 A authorizing lottery bonds for transportation projects

Chair Johnson and members of the Committee. My name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based think tank that promotes individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.
As the attached Sunday Oregonian article discusses, the kinds of public transit projects this bill may fund, especially in urban areas, are a poor use of scarce public transportation dollars.

Light rail, contrary to popular belief, carries relatively few (more…)

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The politics of light rail pork

Steve BucksteinAlthough the phrase “light rail” wasn’t even mentioned in the hearing, it seemed to be the elephant in the room today when the Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development of the Joint Ways and Means Committee met to move forward a $100 lottery bond measure to fund transportation projects throughout Oregon.

As introduced in the House, HB 2278 would have required that at least 15 percent of the funding be allocated to each of five regions described in the bill. But when the bill reached this committee, the 15 percent number had somehow been reduced to (more…)

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A small dinghy of sanity in a roaring sea of legislative excess

Steve BucksteinFrom the 1840s through the 1860s more than 80,000 pioneers walked beside their covered wagons along the Oregon Trail from Missouri to Oregon. They came for progress. They came for opportunity. They came for freedom. The journey was long and dangerous. Some never made it, dying along the way.

Now, some legislators have mixed up preserving the physical path they followed with preserving the ideals which propelled them to make their harrowing journeys.

By a 23 to 6 vote, the Oregon Senate passed SB 823 A that would stop ALL development, including (more…)

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Testimony before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on SB 823 A, prohibiting development along the Oregon Trail

Steve BucksteinGood afternoon Chair Roblan and members of the Committee. My name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based think tank that promotes individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.

The pioneers walked 2,000 miles from Missouri, risking life and limb, to build a new life for themselves and their families in the open west. Some never made it, dying along the way. The Oregon Trail was all about progress. It was all about opportunity. It was all about the right to (more…)

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One Vote Short: House Education Committee Votes on HB 3010

Matt WingardCascade Commentary

Summary

One third of the legislature supported the Freedom to Choose My School Grant bill in the first year that we attempted to lobby at the state capitol. A number of others expressed off-the-record interest in our attempts to bring more choices to low-income and minority parents in Portland. Few bills get this kind of support during their first legislative session. (more…)

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Don’t tarnish Oregon’s pioneer spirit

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Oregonians sometimes forget how we got here. The Oregon Trail was an important predecessor of today’s Interstate Highway System. From 1841 to 1869 at least 80,000 pioneers walked beside covered wagons from Missouri to Oregon. They traveled over mountains, across deserts, and forded raging rivers to build a new life for themselves and their families in the open west. Some never made it, dying along the way.

Now, a bill before the legislature would tarnish their (more…)

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One Vote Short

Matt WingardHouse Education Committee votes on our school choice proposal

On Friday, May 11, 2007 supporters of House Bill 3010 convinced the House Education Committee to vote on the issue of giving low-income minority parents a choice in their child’s education.

Using a procedural motion, we attempted to amend HB 3010 into a Senate bill (SB 334A) being considered by the Committee. Both School Choice Working Group board member Esther Hinson and I testified on the amendment.

We reminded committee members that drop-out and reading failure rates continue at alarming rates within (more…)

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School Choice Saves Children and Money

Kathryn HickokQuickPoint!

Last week the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation released a landmark study showing that the twelve school choice programs currently operating around the country have saved state and local budgets a net of $444 million dollars since 1990.

“School choice saves,” said Robert Enlow, executive director of the Friedman Foundation. “It saves children, and now we have empirical evidence that it saves money. In the face of $444 million in savings, another excuse to deny children a quality education has vanished before our eyes.”

Critics of school choice often claim that (more…)

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Clean sweep or consumer rip-off?

Steve BucksteinWhile waiting to testify on another bill before the House Consumer Protection Committee, I listened to testimony in favor of a bill which would require anyone who cleans or inspects chimneys in Oregon to be licensed as a general contractor (SB 605).

A representative of the State Fire Marshall supported the bill and told the committee that over the last eight years there were 4,689 reported chimney fires in the state, nearly 600 a year.

I then asked to testify in order to clarify whether this bill would really protect consumers, or the chimney sweeps. Here’s a summary of my comments:

I reminded the legislators that they sit on the Consumer Protection Committee, not the (more…)

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Testimony before the House Consumer Protection Committee on SB 118A, imposing price controls in a disaster

Steve BucksteinGood afternoon Chair Holvey and members of the Committee. My name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based think tank that promotes individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.

Imposing price controls to protect consumers is one of the worst things government can do in an emergency. Rapidly rising prices signal those outside the affected area to conserve scarce products, and they signal producers to ship more of those products into the affected area quickly. Price controls short-circuit these signals, turning a natural disaster into a political one.

Let me give you just one example of how this bill might backfire and (more…)

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Don’t Pork-Barrel Microenterprises

Sreya SarkarCascade Commentary

Summary

Microenterprises have much to offer to the poor in this country, but only if they take root in a natural way and are not imposed on the poor like other poverty reduction programs. Microenterprise is very different from the usual government-led poverty reduction programs and can only thrive in a deregulated and decentralized economic environment. (more…)

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The Tax Burden of the Working Poor (and a way to help)

Bina PatelCascade Commentary

Summary

Protecting the earned income of low-income families is a proven method of concretely reducing poverty and increasing economic equity. The Earned Income Tax Credit, first enacted in 1975, encourages individuals to remain employed rather than depend on unearned income such as welfare programs. Within the asset building field, it is essential to advance the concept of “making work pay” via public policies and community programs. (more…)

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Community-led housing solution

Sreya SarkarQuickPoint!

Homelessness has become a pressing concern in Central Oregon. The number of people without a permanent home there has increased by half in the past year. More than 2,000 people are presently staying in shelters, on the streets, in their cars or camping out in Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook Counties.

Though 79% of the homeless households are employed, the most common reason for this homeless situation is (more…)

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Microfinance is a tool, not a poverty alleviation program

Sreya SarkarResponse to “A Second Look at Microfinance: The Sequence of Growth and Credit in Economic History,” by Thomas Dichter

Microfinance is a mechanism or a practice of providing financial services on a very small scale such as credit, savings or insurance, to the poor. It is a field being thoroughly investigated by academicians and policy analysts because it has the potential to become an important instrument in poverty reduction. Yet, microfinance is not a direct poverty alleviation program. It also calls for a paradigm shift in our perception of the capabilities of the poor. (more…)

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School Choice Should Be about Students, Not Buildings

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

The mix of traditional school closures, charter school openings, and transfers out of neighborhood schools in Portland is prompting some serious debate about school choice. The district has now surveyed transferring students and found that very few did so because they were dissatisfied with their neighborhood schools. Many simply wanted other choices, like special programs not offered close to home.

But is Portland’s relatively liberal transfer policy undermining some (more…)

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Sometimes a Little Magic Happens: Public Testimony on HB 3010

Matt WingardCascade Commentary

Summary

Public policy advocates often find that spending extended periods at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem can lead to growing cynicism about the public process. But every once in a while, you experience something that restores your faith in what you do. April 5, 2007 was one of those days. I traveled to Salem with a delegation from Portland to testify in support of House Bill 3010. (more…)

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Sometimes Magic Happens

Matt WingardThursday, April 5, 2007, was a great day for me personally. I was very proud to be a part of this hearing, which you can listen to here (starting at 1:36:50):

A mostly African American delegation from Portland traveled to the Oregon State Capitol to testify in support of House Bill 3010, the Freedom to Choose My School Grant program. The bill would create a pilot project to allow 1,000 low-income students to take the state funding for their education and go to any school, public or private in Portland.

The bill got a hearing because State Rep. Betty Komp (D-Woodburn) believes that low-income residents of Portland deserve an opportunity to be heard, and she chairs the House Subcommittee on Education Innovation. (more…)

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Don’t gamble on state police

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Funding for the Oregon State Police has been so scarce in recent years that most parts of the state have no troopers on duty during entire eight-hour shifts. The 665 troopers we had in 1979 have fallen to just 285 today.

The state police are struggling because we’ve expanded the scope of government far beyond anything contemplated when our state was formed, and far beyond what is healthy for our citizens. Now, less than two percent of the entire (more…)

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Testimony on HJR 28 before the House Revenue Committee on using Lottery funding for the Oregon State Police

Steve BucksteinGood afternoon Chair Barnhart and members of the Committee. My name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based think tank that promotes individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.

Currently, less than two percent of the All Funds budget is spent on the State Police. We spend only about eight percent on all public safety, including the prisons and courts. We spend twice that much, 16%, just administrating state government.

The Preamble to the Oregon Constitution proclaims (more…)

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Testimony before the House Transportation Committee on bills to ban cell phone usage while driving

Steve BucksteinGood afternoon Chair Beyer and members of the Committee. My name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based think tank that promotes individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.

I’m here to question the necessity and effectiveness of all the bills before you today that seek to ban certain uses of cell phones while driving.

I think everyone agrees that cell phones have opened up wonderful benefits to our society. Most of us also agree that they have also introduced some risks. Unfortunately, politics is not a very good tool for (more…)

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Preserve the beauty and make it rich

Sreya SarkarQuickPoint!

Oregon presently has eight destination resorts that employ approximately 2,100 people. Destination resorts are a boon for cash-strapped rural Oregon counties, especially after the collapse of the timber industry. Five more resorts are expected to develop in central Oregon that would generate an additional 1,500 resort jobs.

Jefferson County has amended its zoning ordinances to allow (more…)

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Recycling Police on Aisle Nine

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

The Oregon legislature is about to create a new entitlement program for consumers. HB 2626, which passed out of the House Environment Committee this week, will mandate recycling centers for televisions, computers, monitors, and other electronic products. The program will be free to consumers and the service must be convenient to people in every county in Oregon. If it is not, manufacturers of those products may be required to provide door-to-door pick-up of used products to ensure that they are recycled.

In the lingo of environmental regulation, this is known as (more…)

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Testimony on HB 3010: Freedom to Choose My School Grant Program

Kathryn HickokMy name is Kathryn Hickok, and I am director of the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland. Since 1999 CSF-Portland has provided privately funded partial-tuition scholarships to the children of Oregon families whose income is low to moderate. 29% of families currently participating in our program live in Portland neighborhoods directly affected by HB 3010. Some of the parents whose children receive our scholarships are here today. Others regret they are unable to leave work or school to be here. I am including their letters and comments with my written testimony.

CSF-Portland is a partner program of the national Children’s Scholarship Fund. Our mission is to maximize educational opportunity at all income levels by offering tuition assistance for needy families and promoting a diverse and competitive education environment. As far as I am aware, CSF-Portland is the only program in Oregon providing scholarships to (more…)

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Testimony of Matt Wingard In Support of HB 3010

Matt WingardMy name is Matt Wingard and I appreciate the opportunity to testify in support of HB 3010. I am Director of the School Choice Project for Cascade Policy Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan policy research center based in Portland. Cascade works to advance individual liberty, economic opportunity, and personal responsibility.

House Bill 3010 is the product of an 18-month outreach effort in the North and Northeast Portland minority communities. In September, 2005 we began hosting monthly meetings in Northeast Portland to hear the concerns of parents and students in and around the Jefferson High School Cluster. We spent many hours listening to longtime residents and (more…)

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Is "Single Payer" a dirty word?

Steve Buckstein

When Sally C. Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco gave invited testimony* before the House Health Care Committee last Wednesday, she briefly commented on the major health care reform bills before the legislature. She noted that all of them had the potential to devolve into a single payer system like the one she is so critical of in her native Canada.

Committee member Rep. Ben Cannon challenged Ms. Pipes, arguing that since none of the bills actually mentioned “single payer” that she might want to be more careful with her use of language. She responded by reiterating that whether or not they actually contained those words, their flawed approaches to health care reform could inevitably lead to a single payer system.

The very fact that a legislator seemed so concerned with keeping “single payer” out of the discussion may mean that those in favor of such a system have concluded that the public won’t go for it. Good news, if it’s true.

*Listen to the entire hearing. Ms. Pipes testimony occupies the first 23 minutes, then two state workers testify, then Ms. Pipes and the state workers answer questions beginning at 34:30 into the hearing. This portion of the hearing ends at 59:00 into the two hour session.

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Transporting Low-Income Workers to a Better Future in Rural Oregon

Sreya SarkarCascade Commentary

Summary

The growing number of low-income workers in Oregon’s rural counties calls attention to their diverse transportation needs. The sparse populations concentrated in these areas, combined with the types of occupations available, require flexible transportation arrangements that cannot be provided by fixed-route public transit. Private car ownership can empower these workers to reach jobs in our rural communities. (more…)

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Health Insurance for the Few: The “Lexus” Model of Benefits

Bina PatelCascade Commentary

Summary

Government health insurance mandates intended to increase health care coverage for all, especially for lowerincome Oregonians, actually make insurance coverage more expensive and reduce low-cost benefits available to low-wage workers. Basic packages should be offered to allow more individuals to have some level of insurance, rather than mandating “deluxe” insurance packages employers and employees alike cannot afford. (more…)

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No Plan(ners) Required

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

Central economic planning suffers from the fallacy of composition: assuming that what is true of the parts is true of the whole. But there is no collective mind in a city, state or nation that can do for the whole what countless individuals and organizations can do better for themselves. Oregon should remove the central planners and let individuals and businesses make economic decisions based on real-world market and consumer signals. (more…)

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Invited testimony on health care reform proposals before the House Health Care Committee

Sally PipesSally C. Pipes is President and CEO of Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco. In addition to her Oregon State legislative testimony below, she was the feature speaker at Cascade’s Legislative Leadership Forum at the Capitol on March 28th talking about the quest for universal health care coverage. (more…)

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Freedom to Choose My School Grants

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Finally, low-income students and their parents will be able to see the Oregon legislature consider a bill that could give them the same access to school choice that higher-income Oregonians already enjoy. House Bill 3010 was submitted at the request of the School Choice Working Group, which is a partnership between the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and Cascade Policy Institute in Portland.

The Freedom to Choose My School Grants bill will create a (more…)

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Summary Testimony Regarding HB 3244

John A. Charles, Jr.HB 3244 is similar to HB 3948, which was enacted during the 2001 session. As currently written, the bill has a number of problems, including:

1. The preamble of HB 3244 implies that market economies are not “sustainable” and therefore need intervention from government planners, but empirical evidence demonstrates that we already have a sustainable economy. (more…)

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Outline of comments on HB 2626-1 Amendments

John A. Charles, Jr.

  • Electronic waste is a challenge, not a crisis.
  • Disposing of e-waste in a regulated landfill is not a negative externality; the costs are fully internalized into the price of disposal. Moreover, many garbage ratepayers are forced to pay for other social programs that have nothing to do with waste disposal, so they create positive externalities. Examples: Metro tipping fees, Portland OSD financing.
  • The bill purports to impose personal responsibility for the eventual disposal of consumer products, but in fact does just the opposite. It places cost burden on manufacture to create another free entitlement.

(more…)

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Testimony of John A. Charles, Jr. on SB 838

John A. Charles, Jr.My name is John Charles, president of Cascade Policy Institute. Cascade is a non-profit, non-partisan research center dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, economic opportunity and personal responsibility.

I was not asked to be part of the REWG and therefore am not bound by any informal deals that may have been made among its members. My primary concerns about SB 838 can be summarized as: (A) The bill is unnecessary given Oregon’s low-carbon energy supply system (B) it interferes with the existing green power marketing programs which are voluntary; and (C) SB 838 imposes high costs on ratepayers with no offsetting benefits. (more…)

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Self-employment, a way out of welfare

Sreya SarkarQuickPoint!

To fit in with the latest federal requirements set by Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, Oregon needs to change its existing Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program significantly. Oregon could lose up to $14 million annually if it fails to connect half of the TANF recipients to work-related activities.

The Legislative Assembly is currently considering (more…)

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